Inspirational retreat

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Yoga, reiki and relaxation are all on offer at this ethical retreat but visitors also get a inspiration for tree-based interiors. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Simon Hulme.

The line between commercial and residential interiors has blurred over the last few years. Stealing ideas from boutique hotels, restaurants and fashionable retailers is now the norm, though you don’t expect to find inspiration for your home at a wellness retreat.

Tree trunks as room dividers

Tree trunks as room dividers

The décor is usually understated to enable relaxation and that’s exactly how it is at The Acorn, except for an abundance of wood.

There are trunks and branches put to new use as lighting, tables and room dividers. Trees have been sculpted into new forms and used to make an array of beautiful, bespoke and often quirky fixtures and fittings.

The idea of including so much wood in the Acorn Wellness Retreat came from founder Katie Kavanagh.

She says: “I went to a friend’s house and saw a sanded down tree trunk in one of her rooms and it looked amazing. I knew that is exactly what I wanted. There is something very calming and comforting about wood. It brings a stillness and makes you feel held,” says Katie, who used Haresign Bespoke to turn her ideas into reality.

The dining room with bespoke table and branch lights

The dining room with bespoke table and branch lights

Her plans for a retreat were hatched after witnessing the effect of healthier lifestyles on her own family, including her husband, a cancer survivor.

“We started juicing, became vegetarian and it went from there,” says Katie, who practices what she preaches: yoga, mindfulness and reiki.

Her husband’s illness also emphasised the importance of having a place to relax and ‘just be’, enjoy therapeutic treatments and learn about how to use them in everyday life. Mindfulness days, healing days and nutrition classes are also on the Acorn menu.

“Mindfulness is amazing. It is very scientific and logical and just seems to make your brain work in a different way. If you have problems that you can’t do anything about, it helps you put them to one side. I’m not sure I could have done this project without it,” says Katie, who came up with an ethical, not-for-profit business model. It uses income from paying customers to fund free visits for those in most need, including cancer patients and cancer survivors.

One of the bedrooms with bespoke furniture by Haresign

One of the bedrooms with bespoke furniture by Haresign

“It’s about inspiring people to approach life in a different way, whether they have a stressful job or are recovering from an illness.

“We want to show them how to eat better, exercise more and be more mindful.

“For those who pay it is a guilt-free treat as they are helping someone else by coming here,” she says.

After a long search for the right building, she found it in a quiet rural spot close to Brimham Rocks, near Harrogate.

Katie who founded the retreat

Katie who founded the retreat

It was a former farm building turned family home and the owners were delighted with Katie’s plans. Change of use was not a problem and with financial help from her father, she spent a year turning the property into her wellness centre.

The oil heating was replaced with an air source heat pump and underfloor heating and the interior was reconfigured to provide treatments rooms, a sauna and stream room, yoga room, rest areas, a kitchen and large dining room.

A glazed extension overlooking to garden provides a relaxing sun room overlooking the wildlife rich garden. Upstairs, there are bedrooms for those who want overnight stays.

Her wood designs are everywhere as once she began using ash trees from a sustainable woodland, managed by Haresign, it became compulsive

James Haresign, who owns Haresign Bespoke, says “Katie came down to the woodland to choose the trees and branches she wanted. Some of it was air dried in a kiln but with other pieces we just debarked and sanded them down and then just let them dry naturally so they crack. “

The focal point of the large relaxation room is the tree trunk divider fitted with bookshelves. The kitchen, with units by Jeremy Wood, has an enormous branch suspended from the ceiling studded with mini LED lights. The wiring is cleverly concealed in a chiselled-out channel covered over with putty mixed with wood shavings.

The grown-up bunk bed made by Haresign to Katie's design

The grown-up bunk bed made by Haresign to Katie's design

One remarkable feature is the dining room table made from one huge piece of wood fashioned into an acorn shape.

James says: “We build homes for people and the joinery side of the business came from us wanting to put bespoke elements in. We’ll try anything and we enjoyed the challenge that Katie’s ideas presented.”

There are adult-size bunk beds in case friends want a “sleepover”. Katie had them fitted with doors so the bedding can be changed easily. Haresign also created wall-hung wooden headboards and bedside tables, ash doors and a log clad wall panel to hide the heating controls.

Eco-friendliness was a major part of the remit and it extends to using soy candles by a local maker Pure Natural and chairs upholstered by Emma Patchett in natural fabrics by Moon and Ian Mankin.

“Having all the bespoke elements cost more but they are worth every penny,” says Katie. “People come in here and they are bowled over. They can’t stop themselves from stroking the wood.”

* Acorn Wellness Retreat,

Haresign Bespoke, Sicklinghall,

Pure Natural candles,

Emma Patchett, bespoke furniture and reupholstery,

Jeremy Wood handmade kitchens,

Stone and porcelain flooring, Plan-it Earth, Addingham,

A log wall in one of the treatment rooms

A log wall in one of the treatment rooms

Acorn Wellness Retreat, near Brimham Rocks

Acorn Wellness Retreat, near Brimham Rocks